New Marine Electronics: Faster Evolution And Lower Prices

By Lenny Rudow

Everything you need to know about the latest and greatest digital developments and technological transitions for 2018.

It seems like every time you blink, some new technology has made some once-popular consumer electronics device obsolete. The same is true of marine electronics. That's the bad news. But for 2018 there's plenty of good news amid the breakneck speed of electronic evolution. Thanks to the easier updating of units produced in the last five years or so, we're seeing a number of digital enhancements that can be made to existing gear with little more than a keystroke. And when new gear is a necessity, you'll find that prices have actually dropped on many of the latest and greatest systems. Ready to find out all about the latest electronic advancements? Let's power up!

Garmin STRIKER family of fishfinder/chartplotter

Garmin has rolled out a number of new fishfinder/chartplotter units that put the falling cost of advanced tech on display. The key-assisted touchscreen ECHOMAP Plus series includes ClearVü and SideVü scanning, CHIRP, and traditional sonar, preloaded cartography, and built-in Wi-Fi. They're available in 4-, 6-, 7-, and 9-inch displays, and the Wi-Fi connects you with Garmin's free ActiveCaptain app for updating, off-vessel planning, and additional cartography purchases. Here's the crazy thing: Pricing for the new ECHOMAP Plus units ranges from a mere $199 to $1,099. | garmin.com

Another notable launch from Garmin is the STRIKER Plus series, ranging from 4.3 to 9 inches. These units have a keyed interface, along with the fish-finding and connectivity features of the ECHOMAP. They also have Quickdraw Contour mapping software built in, which generates contours to 1 foot as the boat moves and the unit gathers data. Pricing for these units is shockingly low, ranging from $139 to $699 | garmin.com

News Flash!

Garmin Industries has purchased Navionics, one of the largest cartography providers in the industry and the producer of the world's most popular boating app. Garmin says that Navionics will continue to support all of its existing customers and will retain the Navionics brand.

C-MAP enters the new year by developing its inland cartography. At the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, the company announced new digital charts with bathymetry down to 1 foot for Florida lakes, covering almost 80 bass-filled bodies of water. Our inside sources told us that C-MAP's coverage of other inland waterways will be expanding with more detail-added Lake Insight HD charts (covering the continental United States) in the coming months, and data is flowing in from C-MAP's new Genesis Edge community-sourced Social Map charts. C-MAP also announced this past fall that it had acquired i-Sea AS, a tech company that has developed a cross-application charting app that incorporates AIS, position, and speed. Considering these recent developments, more news is sure to come from C-MAP soon. | C-map.com

Garmin has introduced its first GPS-enabled dive computer watch, the Descent Mk1. It includes a three-axis compass, in-dive data, and can even monitor your heart rate. Data is displayed on a 1.2-inch full-color backlit screen and includes data monitoring of up to six gasses, depth, dive time, temperature, NDL/TTS (no-decompression limit and time to surface), ascent/decent rates, gas mix, and more. $999 | garmin.com

Lowrance provides another good example of how the cost of tech can fall with the second iteration of their value-based HOOK series, the HOOK2. These are available in fishfinder-only and fishfinder/chartplotter models (fishfinder-only models do have chartless GPS plotting abilities), all the features of the old HOOK series, and SideScan abilities. Sizes range from 4- to 12-inch units. But here's the shocker: Prices start at a mere $99, and top out at $1,499. Just a few short years ago you couldn't touch a unit with these sorts of abilities and/or 12-inch display for that kind of money. | lowrance.com

Three Axis Versus Two?

All other things being equal, a three-axis sensor or antenna will always be more accurate than the more common two-axis. That's because our boats experience yaw (left/right), pitch (up/down), and roll movements, degrading the reading or reception of a unit designed to account for only pitch and roll movements, but not yaw movement. Think of it this way: When your boat is pointed directly at a lighthouse in the distance but a strong wind or current is shoving you sideways, you aren't actually heading directly at that lighthouse, right? You need to steer slightly upwind, or upcurrent, to maintain the ideal course. But a regular compass mounted at your helm doesn't know this and will tell you you're off course when you do so. A three-axis compass can account for the difference (yaw) when the bow of your boat isn't going in the exact same direction as your boat is traveling.

Simrad has expanded its Go series, adding a GO12 XSE and a GO7 XSR to the line. The 12 is all new, while the GO7 has a restyled glass-helm design and radar compatibility. Both units can pair with a new unlockable ($500) radar add-on called Velocity Track, which enables a Halo radar to determine whether a target is heading at or away from you, and highlights targets that present a potential danger. This is one of those easy-as-pie enhancements we mentioned earlier that, as long as your unit has GoFree connectivity, can be accomplished with a few swipes on the screen. $649 to $2,149 | simrad-yachting.com

Furuno DRS6A-NXT radar

Furuno has expanded its Doppler radar technology to include an open-array option, the DRS6A-NXT. Available in three sizes (3.5-, 4.0-, and 6.0-feet) the antenna has a 2.3-, 1.9-, or 1.4-degree horizontal beam width, and can detect targets from as close as 30 feet and as far as 72 nautical miles. Starts at $6,230 | furunousa.com

Also new this year from Furuno are the SC70 and SC130 satellite compasses. They provide heading, rate of turn, 3-axis speed, GPS, and pitch/roll data, with heading accuracy to 0.4-degrees for the SC70 and 0.25 degrees for the SC130. Speed accuracy is to an eyebrow-raising 0.02 knots. $4,595 and $10,395 | furunousa.com

Raymarine Axiom Pro series

Raymarine has expanded its Axiom series to include Pro versions, which incorporate Raymarine's HybridTouch interface with a keypad. The Axiom Pro series is available in 9-, 12-, and 16-inch displays, (Axiom was previously only available in 7-, 9-, and 12-inch systems) and includes all the features and functions of the original Axiom. Pro-S models designed for cruisers and sailors are offered with single-channel CHIRP (as opposed to a wider spectrum of frequencies) and are slightly less expensive. $2,299 to $5,399 | raymarine.com

KVH just introduced its TracPhone V7HTS, a three-axis gyro-stabilized antenna that gets your data rolling along a whole lot faster. While the comparable old antenna downloaded at 2 MBPS and uploaded at 512 KBPS, the V7HTS downloads at up to 10 MBPS and uploads at 3 MBPS. Its dual-connection abilities mean you can maintain a high-speed channel and an unlimited-use data channel simultaneously. The 26-inch dome unit weighs 57.6 pounds, and comes with an integrated CommBox modem that has built-in Wi-Fi and supports over-the-air software updates. The network is mini-VSAT Broadband with HTS service, and covers most of the globe — in fact, it expands to 25 million square miles more than the original Ku-band coverage. $29,995 | kvh.com 

— Published: February/March 2018


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